Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
– Psalm 150
This particular Psalm has always been one of my favorites. Psalm 150 calls us to praise the Lord with songs and music. Ever since my childhood, I’ve always loved music, so much so that I started music lessons very early and seriously considered it a career at one point. Singing and playing the violin was more than just a pastime or a hobby; it was something that truly gave me joy. Mass, church programs and the community gave me many opportunities to use my talents to glorify God and serve His people.
As I grew up, I looked for different sources of inspiration in music. I followed contemporary Gospel singers and musicians online. I also loved hymns; I listened and played a lot of it. I was constantly looking out for a role model – someone to whom music spoke to the way it did to me, someone who literally ‘sang their heart out to God‘. It was then that I came across St. Cecilia – the patron Saint of musicians. Her story immediately gave me the inspiration and she was the role model I was looking for.
Cecilia was a young Christian girl from a noble and high ranked family who lived in Rome, in the 2nd or 3rd century. Though very rich and distinguished, Cecilia lived a life of prayer and penance. She wore sackcloth beneath her rich clothes, fasted several days a week and was determined to remain a virgin for the love of God. When she was very young, her parents promised her in marriage to a young man named Valerian who was not a Christian. Cecilia had great faith in God and asked for to His guidance in that situation. On the day of her marriage, amid the music and rejoicing of the guests, Cecilia sat apart, singing to God in her heart. That night, she told her husband that she was protected by an angel who was guarding her purity. Valerian asked to see the angel, she told him that he would see the angel only if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia (the Appian Way) and be baptized by Pope Urbanus. After his baptism, he found an angel standing by the side of Cecilia, and crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies. Through Cecilia, not only Valerian but also his brother Tiburtius was baptized and both became Christians.
Cecilia, Valerian and Tiburtius made it their mission to lead as many people as they could to the Lord. Cecilia helped many Romans experience the love of God and helped them to turn away from their sinful lives. Valerian and Tiburtius devoted their wealth to helping the poor and gave their time to give fitting burials to the Christians who were martyred in Rome for their faith. Many turned to Christ because of the work they did and the faith they had. Being a Christian in Rome at the time was dangerous, but the love of God made Cecilia, Valerian and Tiburtius brave. The brothers were arrested and brought before the prefect of Rome ‘Turcius Almachius‘, who had them beheaded when they refused to deny their faith. Cecilia buried their bodies and carried on with the work of God, for which she was soon arrested. The prefect and high ranked Romans tried hard to persuade her to be more “politically correct” but Cecilia bravely refused to renounce her faith and firmly placed her trust in God. She was sentenced to death however, fearing that her youth, nobility, faith and charity would arouse the people if she was publicly executed, the prefect tried to have her put to death secretly by suffocation but was unable to cause her any harm. Finally, he ordered her to be beheaded, this too failed as the executioner was unable to cut her head using a sword, leaving her wounded. She lay in that state for 3 days and even during this time, she preached the word of God, sang songs to praise Him and led many more people to embrace a life in Christ. Finally she died and was buried, never once forsaking her faith. On her request to the Pope her home was cpnverted into a Church and her grave was moved there in 817. Her tomb was re-opened and her body exhumed in 1599 and it was discovered in an incorrupt state making her one of the first bodies of all incorrupt saints. She was also declared the patron saint of musicians and sacred music. The Church celebrates the feast of St. Cecilia on November 22nd every year.
St. Cecilia was and still is a true inspiration to all. She lived in purity, with faith and in accordance to God’s will; this is a great example to all of us, of God’s wonderful faithfulness and mercy; the way she led people to Christ through her teachings and through music was a great testament to her undying faith in God and her burning desire to win souls for Christ. It is exactly these qualities of hers that touched me and made her my role model. As Christians, all of us have been given a mission by God- to win souls for Him and to lead His people to a greater experience in Christ. God has also given us many talents which we are called to use for this very purpose, ‘to fulfill His mission‘. We can do this in small ways like, singing or playing an instrument for our church choirs, using our talents for writing and speaking to change people’s lives and even using social media as an instrument to bring people to Christ. St. Cecilia is a perfect example of a soul on fire for God; using her gifts, talents and abilities to draw people closer to Him. She inspires me to use the talents I have – of singing and music in particular for God’s greater glory and motivates me to win souls for Him. St. Cecilia lived a life of purity and chastity, devoting herself to God as someone set apart for Him. In today’s world, as we look around and see a generation increasingly drawn towards impurity and the ways of the evil one, God also seems to be calling us to emulate St. Cecilia and live a pure life of sacrifice devoted to God and His mission. In all the difficulties, hardships and obstacles in life, we are called to live like St. Cecilia in joy, purity and, in the words of Psalm 150,
‘with every breath, praise the Lord’!
St. Cecilia, pray for us!
“To die for Christ is not to sacrifice one’s youth, but to renew it;”
– St. Cecilia